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Jonas Kåge on the “Magic” of Tudor Ballets

March 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Jonas Kåge and Gelsey Kirkland

I have experienced Tudor in one way or another throughout my professional life.

My roots are with the Royal Swedish Ballet where Tudor was director in the 60’s and I was a student at the Royal Swedish ballet school.  He created Echoing of Trumpets for the Royal Swedish Ballet and staged many of his works for the company. I remember watching performances and have very strong impressions of Echoing of Trumpets, Romeo and Juliet and Pillar of Fire.  I was a clean slate and what was written on that slate remains today.

Tudor created Leaves are Fading for ABT in the 70’s with Gelsey (Kirkland) and me being particularly featured. Tudor worked intensely and quickly, comparatively speaking, and was incredibly nervous having not created a new ballet for years.  To see him reach deep into himself and pull out what he did was heart rendering for all of us involved. 

During my time as Director of Ballet West from 1997-2006, I added several of his ballets to the repertory.   I took the opportunity to expose what I feel are important, relevant and challenging ballets for the public and dancers of today.

 Ballet West brought an evening of Tudor’s works to the Edinburgh Festival: Leaves, Offenbach in the Underworld, and Lilac Garden. For my last premiere at Ballet West, Echoing of Trumpets was revived, a masterpiece that made a fresh and powerful impression.

Like with all dance works that have become classics, every new generation will discover and appreciate their magic. The characteristics of Tudor’s work and genius would appear quite narrow in today’s dance spectrum, and yet as his prism of works slides into view they shine like strong and bright beacons. The ballets often deal with human relations, conflicts, as well as social issues and will therefore always be relevant – I must add that I am always amazed by the technique required.

Although his works are often psychologically complex, Tudor manages to portray the emotion in a musical score with brilliant simplicity. I find that most of his ballets and his choreographic style have managed to avoid trends and clichés.  Or is it that he was completely uninterested and unaffected by trends? I tend to think so.

The strongest validation of his work today is that the young generation of dancers embraces his works wholeheartedly. Perhaps tentatively at first, as the language is, for them, subtle and full of nuances, but as they become fully introduced and begin to perform the works they acquire a new and deeper side to their artistry. These are ballets for thinking and intelligent dancers and for an adult audience. That ballet is an adult art form is often a revelation for many. 

That this unusual man would choreograph, what are the chances? And that his works would be so brilliant and have the ability to speak to a wide range of ages, backgrounds and nationalities is in many ways unique. Talk about Dance Theater!

Jonas Kåge

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